J&J joins forces with JDRF for Type 1 diabetes Dx

Benjamin Wiegand, head of Janssen's DIA

Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen unit is teaming up with nonprofit JDRF to develop new diagnostic approaches for Type 1 diabetes, aiming to identify the disease earlier and curb its progression.

The research collaboration is part of Janssen Research & Development's recently announced Disease Interception Accelerator (DIA), an independent group that is looking for the root causes of diseases such as diabetes, and creating innovative diagnostic, therapeutic or combination treatments. Type 1 diabetes is the group's first focus area, and Janssen researchers will work with JDRF to accelerate R&D and find new treatments for the disease.

In particular, scientists will use immune diagnostics and precision intervention to find the immunological underpinnings of the disease. Moving forward, the DIA plans to focus on other disease areas with "high unmet need" and where Janssen has "deep expertise," the company said in a statement.

"With Type 1 diabetes being the first area of focus, aligning with JDRF is a critically important step forward to collaboratively advance research that is intensely focused on disease interception," Benjamin Wiegand, head of Janssen's DIA, said in a statement. "We're excited to build on the long-standing relationship between the JDRF and the Johnson & Johnson family of diabetes companies as we embark upon this journey."

Janssen is also casting an eye toward the fast-growing microbiome field through the initiative, rolling out a new microbiome institute to help coordinate research and collaborations. The company plans to have two locations for the institute, including a major lab in Belgium on Janssen Research & Development's Beerse Campus and a second location in Cambridge, MA, near its Innovation Center, William Hait, global head of Janssen Research & Development, told FierceBiotech in an email.

The new diabetes initiative also comes on the heels of another research collaboration for J&J. In December, the company said it would join forces with Lundbeck to back a new project at the Wellcome Trust that looks at the immune system and inflammation's role in depression and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers at 7 top academic research institutions in the U.K. will participate in the initiative through preclinical and proof-of-concept studies.

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